It’s 5:34 and the sun is meandering towards the horizon, taking its sweet golden time during these long summer days. I’m sitting outside on our front porch, listening to the traffic noise filtering through the trees from the highway two streets over, a mosquito buzzing my left ear, languid children’s laughter preceding them as they turn the corner. It’s been an abnormally cool and wet summer – par for the abnormally cold and snowy winter, and long wet spring that have made up the last year. July in Alabama is scorching hot, dry brittle grass turning brown, dusty roads and water restrictions. This — this does not feel like July.
All three of them are inside, napping. Does it make us bad parents to put our kids down for nap at 5 pm on a Saturday night at the end of summer? School is lurking, and it feels like we are stealing the last of this time together before, even though they are technically only starting pre-k together this year. Late birthday for him, early birthday for her – they’ll go off to big school in back-to-back years. So now I let them sleep in too late, and go to bed even later, a protest against the more rigid schedule that will be on us all too fast.
I turned 34 on Thursday. It’s a passing birthday, not a milestone, not worth a big party. Facebook messages, calls from my parents, a few cards, a trip out for ice cream after dinner. We got a babysitter last night and went out for sushi and decaf coffee. Compared to her birthday in a few weeks, for which we are already planning, buying favors, and sending invites. 34 feels like a placeholder – that last year before I turn …. da da dunh … 35. Because 35 is the middle of my 30’s, after which I’ll be closer to 40 than not.
When I was growing up, all the adults in my life seemed so … adult. Grown up, like they had it together. Somehow foreign and mysterious, knowing all the answers to all the questions. Were they faking it? Am I faking it well enough for my kids to think I know what I’m doing? Cause I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing half of the time. When my mother was my age, she had an 11-year old and two under 3. Maybe she wasn’t as different as I think she was, after all.
My 29th birthday, I was pregnant and we went out for dinner with my girlfriends at a restaurant that isn’t open anymore. My 30th, I threw myself a barbeque party and we had guests til 1:30 in the morning. My 31st, I was hugely pregnant with Smaller, and I got an oreo ice cream cake to compensate. My 32nd, we had a family dinner party where my sister-in-law gifted me a german chocolate birthday cake and we all got to meet Manly’s little sister’s new boyfriend. Last year, we went out for a beer tasting, only to find out that we were a week early – so we sat there and tried two new ones with the guy who runs the store.
I’m getting older. I know it, and I feel it. My hair is as much grey as it is brown now, there are crow’s feet at the corners of my eyes, the creases in my hands showing now instead of plump, unblemished skin. And yet, I am so young still. Realizing that I might not retire from this company after all – the founders will be retiring in 15 years, and who knows what it will be like then. I will be 49 in 15 years, my children not yet out of high school. I will still have 15 years or more left in my career after that.
7:22 now. The sun is settling into the edge of the world, its light a soft illumination tinged with orange over the treeline. The lights along the sidewalk are starting to glow, echoing the green-gold pinpoints of lightning bugs drifting aimlessly through the warm, wet air outside. I wonder what lightning bugs eat? The kids are up and watching a movie in the next room, giggles floating through the doorway. The baby is swatting at a toy – I can see her head bobbling out of the corner of my eye – grunting and chirping while she plays.
We’re going out for milkshakes now, and I need to find my shoes. Make sure everyone has pottied, that bags are packed, hands are clean. It’s life. In it and watching it from afar, examined and lived-in, and lived-through. Mine.